Distance Measuring Devices in Golf

Since 2006, distance measuring devices (DMD) are allowed in golf. Although this rule has been around for 9 years, if ask an amateur about a DMD, you might be surprised at the plethora of answers.

What sparked my interest in DMD is a Sean Foley’s article called Ride the Wind from Golf Digest, April 2015. He stated in the article that weather apps on your phone to find wind speed and direction are allowed when playing golf. At first, I was thinking that this could not be right because it was not something I remember reading in the rule book. So, off to the rules I went.

According to the USGA and RCGA, Appendix IV, players cannot use any device that:

  • the gauging or measuring of slope;
  • the gauging or measuring of other conditions that might affect play (e.g., wind speed or direction, or other climate-based information such as temperature, humidity, etc.);
  • recommendations that might assist the player in making a stroke or in his play (e.g., club selection, type of shot to be played, green reading or any other advice related matter); or
  • calculating the effective distance between two points based on slope or other conditions affecting shot distance.

Unless I am interpreting this wrong, a device that measures wind speed or direction is contrary to rule 14-3 – Artificial Devices, Unusual Equipment and Unusual Use of Equipment. So it is not legal to use a weather app that measures wind speed and direction and thus cannot be used during any tournament or round of golf.

To make sure I cover all my bases, I next checked the recent decisions of golf that have not made it into the official rulebook yet. “According to the USGA and R&A, “decisions” are updated every two years and the actual Rules of Golf are updated every four years.”  The ability to change the rules of golf to adapt to its evolving nature is extremely important.  Most weekend golfers are less concerned about the real rules, but if you have a wish to play in any competition, knowing or not knowing the rules could prevent you from being disqualified.

My research in the ‘decision’ section of the official rules revealed: 14-3/18 Weather Information Accessed on Multi-Functional Device

Q. During a stipulated round, may a player access local weather information (e.g., wind, temperature, humidity) through an application or internet browser on a multi-functional device?

A. Yes. The prohibition in Rule 14-3 is only applicable to the specific act of gauging or measuring conditions that might affect a player’s play (e.g., through use of an anemometer or a thermometer). When accessing weather reports provided by a weather station through an application or internet browser, the player is not actively measuring or gauging the conditions.

Basically, a person can use a weather app, but not to check wind speed and direction to make swing decisions or club selection. They can only check for the possibility of stormy weather making its way toward the course.

After rereading the article, I actually think the error was a typo. Foley states that compasses are not allowed and weather apps are allowed during a round of golf. The official rules show that the exact opposite is true.  So as you head to the course, if you use a multi-functional device, make sure it can only measure distances or else you could be disqualified.

On last point about using DMD, they have to be approved by the Local Rules of your course or else they are not allowed either!

Lastly, if I am wrong about my interpretation of the DMD rule, please feel free to correct me and I will pass it on to my readers. It is important that we all understand the rules of golf!

I am a grateful golfer! See you on the links!

6 thoughts on “Distance Measuring Devices in Golf

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